Saturday, August 24, 2013

2 years

It’s been two years since you went missing from my life and I feel compelled to say something to mark the day...but I still find myself at a loss for words.

I finished residency in June – and even though you would have made some snide or off-beat comment about the moment – I think you would have been happy for me.  I really think you would have gotten a kick out of the send-off my mentor gave me at my graduation dinner.  After all, who doesn’t love the strumming of a ukulele?  And I still think that you would really have loved Vermont.  After all, you always loved ice cream and Phish – and Vermont is pretty well known for both of those things.  Ben and Jerry’s even managed to combine them both into something pretty spectacular.  We would have had a good time sightseeing there, you and I.

I sit around some days and think about all of the fun we might have had together over the course of the next 50 years, if things had only turned out differently.  There were a lot of things we might have shared, a lot of memories we might have made.  But now there are just a lot of things to miss.  The worst part is that I didn’t even know how much I was looking forward to sharing these moments with you until the opportunity was yanked away.  I always thought you’d eventually find a nice girl and settle down and I looked forward to dancing at your wedding.  I was excited to gain a sister.  I looked forward to being an aunt to the children you might have had.  And as Chris and I casually contemplate the idea of children, it hurts tremendously to think that any children that we might have will never know you.  You were really good with children and I know that you would have been a pretty great uncle.  It makes me so very sad that they will miss out on knowing you, and if/when the time comes, I don’t even have a clue how to show them who you were, how to make them love the ghost of someone they’ll never meet.  

Looking at what might have been generally makes me also look back to what has already been.  Some of the good memories are starting to come back slowly, like streaks of sun shining through the clouds after a thunderstorm.  I suspect that the memories will always be tinged with a lot of sadness and a lot of bittersweet but I’ll take those over the anger and the guilt and the grief any day of the week.  Not that those feelings have disappeared, mind you, but at least they are not as all-consuming as they once were.  Or maybe I’m just getting better at integrating those things into my life – maybe I’ve just learned to co-exist with that part of myself.  Because the truth is that my life was rent into two phases by your death and I can never be the same person that I once was.  Your death changed me in a very fundamental way.  It’s been a hard process, trying to figure out who I am and where I fit in a world without you.  I’m not there yet- but I think I’m getting it figured out.  I’m starting to accept the aching pain that has taken the place of the stabbing grief, and I’m starting to live beyond it.  It’s a lie when they say that time heals all wounds; not all wounds are meant to be healed.  The other adage, however, is true:  time marches on. And so must I.

That’s where things stand after two years.  Things are still a work in progress.  I am still a work in progress.  I still miss you, and you still cross my mind every single day.  Your absence still hurts, though I am no longer inclined to make the pain stop.  I’m changing, I’m growing, I’m both more and less than I once was.  We all are, those who loved you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

To Anne, with love

Today, the world lost someone truly special. Her name was Anne Wolff.

Anne was not my mother, my aunt, or even genetically related to me in any sort of way.  She was, however, family in a different, less tangible way – the family of my heart.  You know, the family that consists of members that you pick up along life’s journey, the ones that you choose, that are not genetically predetermined.  And so while my grief tonight is by no means as overwhelming and wrenching as the grief of her immediate, biological family, my heart aches just the same over the loss of this amazing soul.

It’s hard to find the words to describe the special person that Anne was – and that, in and of itself, is telling.  Anne was always too busy learning and exploring, listening and engaging others, to worry about silly things like labels.  She wore a great many hats - mother, daughter, aunt, teacher, scientist, biologist, cook, chauffeur, Girl Scout troop leader, Science Olympiad and History Day group leader, Vacation Bible School director -  but to me, she was simply a friend.  And when I say friend, I mean it in the best of ways, because Anne was the kind of friend that would drop just about everything to help you if she could.  She was the kind of friend that made you realize that it was ok to laugh at yourself sometimes and the kind of friend that you could always count on in a pinch. She was the kind of friend that could make you laugh even in your darkest moods with one of her corny jokes (“How do you make a whore moan [hormone]?” she once asked my anatomy & physiology class during a lecture on the endocrine system.  The answer was not scientific…“You don’t PAY her!”)  She was the kind of friend who could go for months/years without seeing you and still pick up conversations with an ease and familiarity that suggested that you had never really been gone at all. But most important of all, she was the kind of friend (and person) that understood that the investments that paid out the highest dividends were the investments made in people, not things – and in this, Anne was an investor of the highest form. She began investing in my life somewhere around the time that I turned 6...and I truly hope that at some point, her dividend was worth the amount of energy that she expended on me over the years.

Anne was my emergency contact for many years, mostly because my parents had deep and well-placed faith in her.  If I were ever in trouble and my own parents could not be reached, they knew without a doubt that they could count on Anne to care for me and about me with nearly as much attention and warmth as they could give themselves.  It is no small thing to trust the care of your child to someone else but they knew that Anne could be trusted.  I, too, placed my faith in Anne many times throughout the years, including the time during my teenage years where I took an (illegal) joyride in my father’s blue International that ended, tragically, with several dented neighborhood mailboxes and a ugly dent/scrape down the side of the vehicle.  In panic, I called Anne (it never occurred to me to call anyone else) and Anne came up the hill with rather stunning alacrity… firstly to ascertain that I was unhurt, and secondly, to help me realize that my plan to cover over the scrape with blue Sharpie marker was simply not feasible. Her patience and wisdom when dealing with distraught, melodramatic teenaged girls was nothing short of heroic.

Many of my childhood memories revolve around Anne – the sleepovers that ended up with Sarah and I slumbering next to her in her great big waterbed, exhausted after having stayed up late to watch Saturday Night Live.  The evening I learned, somewhere around the age of 10, that the phrase, “I’m pregnant,” did NOT, in fact, mean that I was deadly serious about something (I’m glad Anne cleared that one up before it got out of hand!)  The Thanksgivings and Christmases that our families shared together, air redolent with laughter and friendship.  The hot summers that Sarah and I spent together digging for dinosaur bones in the backyard while munching on snow peas freshly plucked from Anne’s small vegetable plot.  The summer that Anne, Sarah, Shana and I walked a portion of the Mormon Trail because it would give to us a deeper historical perspective of the Mormon faith, though none of us were Mormon.  The murder mystery birthday parties that almost always featured Anne wearing a brightly colored Mexican poncho and sombrero, head thrown back in laughter as she attempted a Spanish accent (and somehow, she always managed to sound vaguely Russian).  The New Year’s Eve parties full of friends and never-ending games of Star Wars Monopoly.  The pre-teen forays into filmmaking that ended badly for the beloved classroom plant of an elementary school teacher.  The early childhood days full of shaving cream creations and Barbie dolls and dress-up from a closet full of never-ending clothing options and costume jewelry.  The innumerable early morning History Day and Science Fair and Science Olympiad and Girl Scout troop camping trips and the accompanying jokes and laughter.  The rather graphic video of a woman giving birth that still haunts me to this day and did a wonderful job of preventing unwanted pregnancies among our Girl Scout troop.  (And on a related note - sorry, Mom, but almost everything I knew about sex by the time I turned 18, I learned from some very frank discussions with Anne and Sarah).   

As a professor of science at the local community college, Anne introduced me to science and brought it to life in a way only a truly skilled educator can.  Under her tutelage, I learned the complexities of anatomy and physiology (learned on no fewer than 3 unfortunate, formaldehyde-drenched felines), how to mix basic household ingredients to produce colored slime and moldable play-doh, and exactly why you should never put your mouth directly on the spout of a public water fountain (we cultured the fountain outside of her LCCC office for fun). She was the first person to introduce me to a microscope as a child, and I still remember the amount of time she dedicated to making sure that I saw how exciting looking at the microscopic world could be, how there was a whole world that existed beyond the capabilities of the naked eye.  She forced me to expand my mind and to question the world around me, but mostly, she taught me to love science.  This love has stood me in good stead as a physician.  When it was time to pick a medical specialty, pathology was the easy and natural choice – where else could I utilize the microscope skills I had learned so long ago?  More than once, I have gazed through the lens of the microscope at a microorganism or tissue specimen and thought of Anne fondly before returning to my diagnostic task.  I have a career that I {mostly} love based on skills I picked up long ago – and while I might have eventually found my way into pathology, I know that Anne, in her own special way, lent me a tremendous helping hand.

There is so much more that I could say about this wonderful woman who helped to shape my childhood, and I am fortunate that my memories of her are plentiful.  But above all else I could say, I will say this:  I mourn the loss of Anne.  I mourn the loss of one of my earliest mentors.  I mourn the loss of one of my earliest and most constant friends.  But mostly, I mourn the loss of one of the most special women I have ever known.  Anne was loving and kind, generous and witty, intelligent and passionate, vivacious and extraordinary.  People like Anne are rare; they are a once-in-a-lifetime kind of find – a jackpot in the lottery of life.  And with friends like Anne – who needs the winning PowerBall ticket, anyway?

And while these kinds of goodbyes are difficult, I know that they are not forever.  One day, I will see my friend again.  So until that day arrives, here’s to you, Anne, with love, respect, and gratitude.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why one should never buy me expensive things...

I lose a lot of things...

-iPods (yes, plural, because I've now lost 3 of them)
-Watches (why I almost never wear them anymore)
-Debit/credit cards/checkbook (once, I had to pick through the used laundry in the morgue because forgot that I left my card in the pocket of my scrubs and tossed them in the hamper...totally gross experience, btw).
-Car keys/ house keys/ mailbox keys...any kind of key, really
-Important documents
-Driver's license
-Wedding ring
-A diamond earring (which in all fairness was retrieved after I dropped it down the sink drain but goes a long way in explaining why I've never received any other expensive jewelry from Chris).
-Socks and many other articles of clothing
-Call pager (and oh, how I wish it had remained lost...)
 ... and so forth...

If a vortex of lost items exists, I'd sure like to run into it because I'm pretty sure I've kept it well stocked over the years.

It's so frustrating, being a motile black hole.  And now, I've lost my phone, albeit for very different reasons.  I lost my phone when I failed to keep track of said phone's position relatively to my glass of water.  I brushed my cell phone off of my nightstand and into an uncovered cup of water on the floor when the damn call pager shrieked and caused me to wake up, disoriented and grabbing blindly for the noisy culprit.

If I'm being honest, it was time to replace the piece of junk anyway, because the alarm clock function was starting to get a little sketchy.  And really, I'd been looking at new phones anyway but had been indecisive and somewhat unwilling to shell out several hundred dollars.  But fate (and the call pager) made my decision for me, which is how I find myself with a new iPhone5.

So pardon me if I'm a little obsessive with my new phone - but given the above track record, can you really blame me?